He was habitually fastidious and often difficult to the utmost acerbity about the quality and dressing of his food. In , while still at Copsham, Meredith reconcentrated upon fiction, and submitted to the gradual intensification of labour which the completion of a novel always involved. In April he brought out 'Emilia in England' afterwards rechristened 'Sandra Belloni' , the only story which he furnished with a sequel in 'Vittoria,' Emilia's passion for Italy forms the central theme of the whole.
Her figure, the most beautiful and elaborate he had yet portrayed, dominates the two novels. Nowhere are the gems of his insight more lavishly scattered. There are admirable woodland scenes. At the same time he first formulates his anti-sentimental philosophy and his growing belief in the purifying flame of the Comic Spirit. The reception of the book was, however, meagre. Meredith got to know the Vulliamys through his friend N. Hamilton of the British Museum, and first met his future wife in Norfolk.
Meredith was at the moment full of schemes, 'laying traps for money. His enthusiasm for Norbiton, where his son, William Maxse, was born on 26 July , cooled down as buildings began to close in his horizon, and at the end of he moved to Flint Cottage, facing Box Hill, near Burford Bridge, in Mickleham.
There, the scene of Miss Austen's 'Emma,' his opportunities of seeing and knowing people who were useful to him as types were ever enlarging. He became attached to the literary associations of the place, its connections with Keats, with the French exiles of Juniper Hall, and with the Bumeys. He knew mid-Surrey extraordinarily well, and, devoted to outdoor life, he acquired a detailed and intimate knowledge of the natural history of the countryside cf.
He is probably the closest observer of nature among English novelists. At the top of the sloping garden, about four minutes' remove from Flint Cottage, he put up in a Norwegian chalet where, in one of the two rooms, he slung his 'hammock-cot,' and could live alone with his characters for days together. On the terrace in front of the chalet, whence he descended to meals, he was often to be heard carrying on dialogues with his characters and singing with unrestrained voice.
Whimsical and sometimes Rabelaisian fabrications accompanied the process of quickening the blood by a spin a favourite word with him over Surrey hills. There he wrote his master-works, 'Beauchamp's Career' and 'The Egoist,' and welcomed his friends, often reading aloud to them in magnificent recitative, unpublished prose or verse. After his second marriage Meredith mainly devoted himself to 'Vittoria,' the sequel of 'Emilia,' Marie, his 'capital wife' and 'help-meet,' copying the chapters. Lewes, editor of the 'Fortnightly,' eventually offered l.
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Meanwhile he completed a new novel, 'Rhoda Fleming. It was adequately reviewed on 18 Oct. He attempts the delicate task of describing the innate purity of a woman after a moral lapse. In May Meredith was sent out by the 'Morning Post' as special correspondent with the Italian forces then in the last phase of the war with Austria. He stayed at the Hotel Cavour in Milan, and afterwards at the Hotel Vittoria in Venice, awaiting events and forgathering with the other special correspondents at the Cafe Florian.
Hyndman was there, and Charles Brackenbury, and G. Sala, an antipathetic figure, with whom Meredith was nearly drawn into a serious quarrel. He saw something of the inconclusive operations in Italy and addressed thirteen interesting and vivid letters in plain prose to the paper, the first dated Ferrara, 22 June , and the last Marseilles, 24 July reprinted in memorial edition, vol.
For a time Meredith had some hopes of becoming 'The Times' correspondent in Italy, Paris, or elsewhere. As he went home over the Stelvio pass and then by way of Vienna, where he met Leslie Stephen for the first time, he collected fresh material for the revision and expansion of his 'Fortnightly' novel, 'Vittoria' or 'Emiha in Italy' , which was published on his return to England in Swinburne, however, overflowed with generous praise.
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During part of —8 Mr. Morley was absent in America and Meredith was left in charge of the magazine. In Meredith made his single incursion into active politics by assisting his friend Maxse, who was standing as radical candidate for Southampton. There were fifteen illustrations by Du Maurier. Not one of the author's books rivals this one in invention. The book protests through the brains of Beauchamp, the young naval officer a reflection of Maxse , on the one hand against lolling aristocrats who refuse to lead and against the false idols of Manchester on the other; the complex hero is hampered by apple-fever as Meredith styles his prepossession for some of the fairest daughters of Eve and at times by a species of megalomania.
The construction keeps the interest intensely alive, and the book ends with the sting of the hero's death by drowning. Meredith was at this time acquiring new friends, among whom were Moncure Conway, R. Stevenson, Russell Lowell, and W. Henley; his books were becoming known among the younger generation at Oxford; he was seen in London, though never a familiar figure there, at picture exhibitions or concerts, or dining at Krehl's in Hanover Square.
This brought in an appreciable addition to his income. After the reading he returned to the Garrick to dine and then by the 8. Mark Pattison spoke of his name on a book as a label to novel-readers, warning them not to touch. After the lecture a new period in Meredith's career as a novelist opens. For a quarter of a century he had been producing novels of the first rank.
Yet his best work was still addressed to empty benches. He determined to write in his own way, upon his own themes uninterruptedly. In 'The Egoist' 3 vols. Willoughby is of course a fine discovery, a complete set of nerves not heretofore examined, and yet running all over the human body — a suit of nerves I see more and more that Meredith is built for immortality. The book was hastily written in five months, by night as well as by day, to the injury of health. It was the first among Meredith's novels to provoke a crossfire of criticism.
Henley reviewed it three or four times, frankly as regarded the ingrained peculiarities of the style, but with an almost reverential admiration for its analytic power. William Watson attacked in National Review , October the plethoric mentality of the writer, his fantastic foppery of expression, oracular air of superiority, and sham profundity. The controversy did the author no harm. The three volumes of were followed by a second one-volume edition in This fact, the reprints of 'Shagpat' and 'Feverel' and 'Love in the Valley,' the appearance of 'Feverel' and 'Beauchamp's Career' in Tauchnitz editions, and the reproduction of several of the novels in America, all began to point to a rediscovery on the part of the public of the Meredith revealed by 'The Times' in and then obscured for twenty years.
Meredith called his dramatic recital 'The Tragic Comedians,' and enriched it with some of his most brilliant and original epigrams. It first appeared in the 'Fortnightly' Oct. In he had by hard exertion carved out a good holiday, spent partly in Patterdale with Mr. John Morley, and partly in Dauphine and Normandy. But premonitions of advancing ill-health, a growing sense of neglect, and the necessities of unremitting labour saddened him.
For a time he was estranged from his son Arthur, but news of Arthur's spitting blood in June awoke the old tenderness, and next year he made a Mediterranean excursion with him. Meanwhile the enthusiastic devotion of literary friends was increasing. In the Stevensons visited him. In he met Sir Charles Dilke and Prof. Jebb for the first time. He was cheered by Browning's appreciation of his verse. In May he brought out his most notable poetic volume, 'Poems and Lyrics of the Joy of Earth,' no testimony to his wisdom, he describes it.
Here we have, with a few personal poems, such as the verses to J[ohn] M[orley] and 'To a Friend Lost' Tom Taylor, whose 'Lady Clancarty' he had applauded , the finished version of 'Love in the Valley,' and lyrics such as 'The Lark Ascending,' 'Earth and Man,' 'Melampus,' and 'The Woods of Westermain,' which satisfactorily answer the complaint that Meredith's 'Philosophical Lyrics' contain too much brain and too little music or magnetism. He urges the need of the mutual working of blood the flesh, senses, bodily vigour and brain, and the steering of a course between ascetic rocks and sensual whirlpools, in quest of spiritual exaltation.
In —5 there ran through the 'Fortnightly Review' chapters i. At length the general public was captured. Diana was clearly modelled upon the brilliant Caroline Sheridan, the Hon. Norton [q. The legend of her having betrayed to 'The Times' the secret confided to her by Sidney Herbert that Peel had resolved on the repeal of the Corn Laws was of later growth, and Meredith was subsequently persuaded by the Dufferins to repudiate the popular identification of Mrs.
Norton's career with that of his heroine. A parody appeared among 'Mr. Punch's Prize Novels,' and society grew alive to the peculiar flash of the Meredithian epigram. Invitations from society and societies inundated him, and Box Hill became a place of pilgrimage. Collective editions of his works were arranged and proposals were made to dramatise 'Evan Harrington' and 'The Egoist.
Two operations proved ineffectual, and she died on 17 Sept. Despite ebullitions of temper, which appeared at times almost uncontrollable, Meredith was devotedly attached to one who protected him not only from himself but also from adroit strangers, concerning whose claims upon his attention he was often far too sanguine. It was to the poetic mood that his mind reverted during this period of privation and suffering. Hyde, sm.
His temper mellowed greatly during his last twenty years, and he became in a sense far more approachable. In he spent a month at St. Ives in Cornwall to be near his friends the Leslie Stephens.
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Asquith, sitting between Mr. Balfour and Mr. In he was at Browning's funeral 'The Ring and the Book' and Tennyson's 'Lucretius' were among his favourite poems. Similarity of temperament with his elder son Arthur precluded equable relations but he was distressed and made despendent by the news of Arthur's death at Woking in March , when he himself was shaken and ill. In he underwent the first of three operations for stone in the bladder.
Meanwhile in Meredith returned to fiction. The most individual of the later novels, a new study of modern femininity, 'One of our Conquerors,' ran simultaneously through the 'Fortnightly,' 'Australasian,' and 'New York Sun' Oct. Nothing drove them so crazy as "One of our Conquerors.
The basis of the story is to be found in the secret marriage of the famous Charles Mordaunt, earl of Peterborough [q. The novel, which reverts to an easier style of writing than 'One of our Conquerers,' contains many of the writer's adroitest sayings. It was circumstances like that, going on all over America that really drove my interest.